Large tropical house plants are not difficult to grow, although they require very specific attention. Satisfaction from nurturing big, beautifully lush plants is well worth the effort required. Besides recommendations you’ll find when researching your specific species, follow these general guidelines to keep these gentle giants healthy.
Your prized vegetation was domesticated from regions of the world that are consistently bright, warm and humid. It’s important for you to simulate this environment as much as possible in the microclimate you create in your own home.
Set your thermostat on a fluctuating schedule. Allow for half the day to be a cooler period than the other. If you work, you’ll probably prefer keeping the temperature low while you’re gone. This will help you save on your energy bill too. It is more natural, however, for plants to be in warmer temperatures when the sun is shining. Nevertheless, they will respond well to a consistent cycle of warmer and cooler air.
The temperature fluctuation doesn’t have to be much, but without it plants won’t thrive and probably won’t bloom. Their natural habitat has a day and night cycle, daily warm periods and cool periods that correspond with the natural patterns of the sun. They are programmed by genetics to expect these temperature changes, so you should do your best to accommodate them.
Plants will tolerate an average range from 65 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, although they prefer the higher median. Many plants will survive if kept in lower degrees for extended periods of time, but they probably will not thrive. Many species of large tropical house plants originate from climates that experience cold periods outside the average ideal temperature range.
Keep in mind, however, that in the wild these plants usually go into an unattractive dormant state during extreme temperature annually. Simulating dormancy with a cold period for your plants isn’t ideal because of their unattractive appearance during that time.
Plants must also receive a natural amount of the right kind of light waves. If they don’t get enough light, they will grow very slowly and probably not rebloom. They will also look weak and straggly, and their stems will be stretched but not strong.
Set up your house with garden lights, and it will appear larger and more inviting. These, however, are only byproducts as a beautiful array of houseplants will thrive under such lighting. You can choose from standard florescent light bulbs or high intensity discharge bulbs.
Your choice is dictated by the type of plant. Research your specific species, and find out if it prefers low, medium, or full (high) light. Remember that window sunlight might fulfill lighting requirements for one side of the plant. You can rotate the plant every week to keep it from growing lopsided, but it’s still being starved of the full light it needs.
Florescent lights are sufficient for most standard houseplants. Warm or cool white bulbs are just as good as “plant growth” bulbs, but they are much less expensive. Larger tropical plants appreciate high-intensity discharge (HID) lights that have brighter wattage. Cheap, inefficient bulbs tend to give off more heat than light.
Large tropical houseplants need humidity as much as warm temperatures and lots of light. No matter what your climate, they will appreciate a spritz now and then. Use a spray bottle to mist clean water directly on foliage weekly or as needed.
As a monthly treatment for sunlight-blocking dust, mites, mold, and other scourges, add a small capful of vinegar to a large spray bottle of water. Mist the tops and bottoms of plants leaves thoroughly. Gently wipe them, stroking in a single direction. Take care not to crack or split the leaves. Dry or brittle leaves are a natural indication of dehydration. If you’re treating your plants because they have been under-watered, take extra precautions when handling leaves.
Spraying foliage is only one component of establishing a properly humid environment for your houseplants. Unless your climate is already very humid, you may need to take extra to ensure there is a proper amount of moisture in the air. If leaves start to swell, begin to twist, or turn red or brown in places, avoid misting as these indicate too much humidity already.
If you need to increase humidity, an aesthetically pleasing addition to your decorating with tropical houseplants can be a medium to large fountain or water treatment. Situated between plants, it will help increase humidity levels in your home. This is a great suggestion for plants that are placed close to heaters or air conditioners where forced air will dry them out quickly.
Medium-sized potted plants can be placed on a tray of water-covered pebbles. The evaporation from the tray will balance humidity. In this situation, the entire pot in set on the pebbles. The plant is watered as normal, and the pebbles are covered with water separately from the plant.
The humidity that is in the air and the moisture that’s in soil are two different things. Some planters think that their houseplants are getting enough humidity because the soil stays moist. On the contrary, soil for adult houseplants should never stay continuously moist.
Soil drainage is vital to limiting growth of mold spores and fungus. Roots cannot sit in pooled water or they will develop these problems and more. They must have adequate access to air and nutrients. Drowning them in stagnant water cuts them off from these things. Watering them with dirty, chlorinated municipal water can have the same effect.
Ensure your plants are in the proper potting medium for their type, age and size. Large orchids, for example, should be placed in course orchid mix or bark. Some tropical plants require larger amounts of peat. Most standard varieties of tropical houseplants do well in high quality potting mix.
Watering patterns seem to have even a greater impact than soil type on plant growth and development. Certainly, there needs to be a reasonable balance between the two, and these combinations are as varied as types of plants. It is standard practice to give your houseplants a thorough soaking only when the top inch or so of soil is dry. Water them enough to soak the soil, but stop before water pools in the bottom collection tray.
Large tropical house plants should never be allowed to dry out completely. If you’re sprouting from seeds or cuttings, a moist potting medium is necessary. Any other time, avoid over-watering established plants or you could, quite literally, kill them with kindness. You wouldn’t fill your gas tank if it’s already full. Don’t water your houseplants if the roots are still wet.
Note: Many tropical houseplants are poisonous. Choose decorative plants that won’t build up toxicity if ingested by rambunctious pets or curious children. Some of these poisonous plants are said to exhibit medicinal properties in controlled dosages. These possibilities are part of the allure of growing large tropical houseplants and should be considered when choosing the right ones for your home.